Official portraits of Queen Elizabeth II across British Columbia have been draped in black canvas in accordance with protocol as the world mourns her passing.
It was a difficult sight at the B.C. legislature for a number of tourists from the United Kingdom, who learned about Her Majesty’s death aboard their cruise ship on Thursday.
“She was deeply loved and she’ll be deeply missed,” said visitor Andrew Cohen. “I’ve grown up with her, like a mother.”
“She was one of the best royals ever,” added friend and travel companion Asha Hans, who said she cried while watching the news unfold on the BBC.
The Queen’s death at the age of 96 has been difficult to process for many, including British Columbians. The monarch vacationed in B.C., visiting seven times in an official capacity, and is said to have a special connection to the province.
“It’s hard to know what the province would be like today without the impact she had on us culturally, politically and just as part of our extended family, affecting all of our personal lives,” said Bruce Hallsor of the Monarchist League of Canada in Victoria.
He stood against a backdrop of greyscale portraits, including one of the Queen of Canada.
“The Queen has always done her duty, she’s always pulled through and when she’s had adversity, she’s always risen to the occasion,” said Hallsor.
“I think in the back of our heads, we just expected she was going to pull through once again, because that’s what she always did for us.”
B.C. resident Vikki McNamara said she was concerned Thursday morning when she heard members of the Royal Family were travelling to be with the Queen in Scotland, but the news didn’t feel real until she heard it on the BBC. The U.K. native said her family at home has expressed “unanimous sadness.”
“Eventually it’s going to happen, but it’s was a very strange to watch live because it becomes more real. She was such a national treasure,” McNamara told Global News.
‘That ’90s Show’ trailer: Watch Red and Kitty Forman reopen their basement
New kids dental benefit now open to some Canadians. Here’s what to know
“Everybody knew of the Queen and no matter how you felt about the monarchy, you can’t dispute what a fantastic life she had.”
Her Majesty died surrounded by family at the Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire. She was crowned at the age of 27 and reigned for 70 years.
The queen led the Commonwealth through the Cold War and space race, revolutions in Eastern and Central Europe, the advent of the Internet, the British Invasion, the war on terror and London tube bombings, as well as the establishment of the European Union, SARS, Brexit and COVID-19.
McNamara said she remains “one of the most remarkable women” of the monarchy, and she thinks there will be a “fair bit of change” moving forward as King Charles III is crowned.
“I’ve never met the queen; I don’t know too much about her life … but I know that I feel a deep sense of sadness. I’m not sure why,” she said.
“You just, for some reason, have it deeply in you that she was immortal and nothing bad ever happens to the queen. Inevitably, it grounds you because it’s going to happen to us all.”
Some B.C. residents paid tribute to the queen on Thursday with a visit to the Vancouver park named after her. Others signed books of remembrance at churches and government buildings in their cities.
Kathy Lewis, interim vice-president of research and innovation at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), reflected on the day she saw the queen in person — at the school’s official opening ceremony in Prince George in 1994.
“I’m saddened for the family of Queen Elizabeth of course, but it certainly brought back, frankly, some happy memories as well,” she told Global News.
Flags across the province were lowered to half-mast on Thursday as a mark of respect for the Queen.
A special prayer service was also held for Her Majesty and the Royal Family at the Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver at 5 p.m.
Hallsor said there will likely be a service for the queen in Edinburgh before her body is sent to London for a formal state funeral. Canada will play a role in both that service and the coronation of King Charles III sometime next year, he added.
“There will be a lot to process over the next while and we will have time to say goodbye to Her Majesty and time to welcome our King,” he said.
“I have spoken to a lot of people in Victoria from all walks of life, and (heard) primarily shock and sadness, and the recognition that we’ve lost somebody whose been an important part of lives and we may not have even realized how important she was until she’s gone.”